Cancer Column: Scanxiety

Cycle 4 of 14 of chemotherapy has commenced, I’m already green, slightly puffy and resemble something that is the most pure antonym to glamourous. Though it’s rubbish to be connected to a machine again and have a fat-ass needle hanging out my chest for a week, this is another round closer to being my old self again.

The past few weeks have been a rollercoaster. I wrote about masculinity and cancer in The Guardian, had support from the likes of Owen Jones & Neil Milan, met with the amazing Sarcoma UK team, been invited to speak at universities, grabbed midnight Brick Lane bagels after a myriad of mocktails, had a sea of support on my GoFundMe page where I’ve been raising money for living cost in America and had a sense of a normal life after not being admitted after chemo with neutropenic sepsis (infections caused by my non-existent immune system). It’s not all that bad, eh?

Cycle 4 also means the first time I’ll be able to see if my treatment is working through my reassessment scans, the first time I’ll officially know what’s going on inside me and if all this poison being pushed into me is doing its job. Which, of course, introduces a hell of a lot of anxiety (or ‘scanxiety’ for the sake of this article).

I am now in that limbo of knowledge and ignorance, of hope and fear, of a future or no future. Though they say ignorance is bliss, knowing is so much sweeter.

As you find yourself laying in that cramped and noisy MRI scanner for an hour and a half, your mind is bombarded with negativities and fears just as much as your body is being blasted with radiation. That fear and, of course, whether the hospital food will be any better tonight. I am preached to by people who have never experienced cancer to “remain positive” and I am, I really really am. I count my days in small victories, be that a new commission for a national paper or getting my ass to London and thriving off of good coffee and pretentious street food. With chemo, I’m at that stage where I kind of expect to know how I’m going to feel, what I’m going to feel and when I’m going to feel it. But this cycle feels different, the elephant in the room (apart from me when my body is pumped with too many fluids and I gain 5kg in the space of a day and resemble a 21st century Humpty Dumpty) is time. Time in the form of twiddling thumbs, waiting for scan results and scrolling endlessly on Netflix for something with more than a 2 star rating.

Whilst writing the above, I was greeted by a hospital porter to wheel me down for my scans. After the razzle-dazzle of faulty cannula’s, contrast dye that makes you feel like you’re about to pee yourself and the usual annoyance of scanners, I have my results.

The chemo is working.

The scans showed everything I was hoping for and that the tumour has dramatically shrunk in the space of four cycles. Anxiety qualms = over. This on top of the funding has been incredible; We have raised £5k in two days and I couldn’t be more overwhelmed by the generosity and kindness that people have shown. I don’t feel worthy in the slightest for this and don’t really know what to say, but for those reading that have donated or shared the GoFundMe page, thank you so much.

Onwards.

Words // Dean Eastmond
Support Sarcoma UK here.